I recently caught up with the driver of the B.J. McLeod Motorsports No. 5 Chevy, Matt Mills, and we were able to sit down for a few minutes to talk about the Xfinity Series racing, about how he got to this point in his racing career, and about the expectations for the 2019 season.
Herein lies the bulk of our discussion:
Working On My Redneck: Matt, you are a young man of 22 years. Could you reveal the readers a Readers Digest version of how you got to this point, the Xfinity Series, in your racing career?
Matt Mills: Well, like the majority of my competitors, I started in go karts at a young age. It was a little bit later in my early years than many, I was 12 years old when I started racing. My dad ran motocross so I grew up in and around racing. We were always fans of the sport of racing, and NASCAR in particular. By the time I was 14 years old I was racing full sized race cars. I was fortunate to have supportive parents that allowed me to chase my dream, and here I am in the Xfinity Series this year.
Working On My Redneck: You said that your dad was a motocross guy? Does he have a lot of broken bones and other injuries? Did you ever do motocross?
Matt Mills: Yeah my dad raced motocross and he has had lots of broken bones and injuries to his legs and back. When he first gets out of bed the aches and pains get him, but it gets better quickly. But my dad doesn’t regret racing motocross and the injuries that came with it..
I saw all of his injuries over the years, but I still gave motocross a try for a while. But it didn’t take me very long to realized that four wheels were better than two, so I went the four wheel route.
WOMR: I know that you have bounced around the NASCAR world the last couple of years, could you tell us how your deal with B.J. McLeod Motorsports came about?
MM: I have had B.J. McLeod in my background since my very first start NASCAR with Bobby Dotter. He has always been there for me and has been a good friend to me. I could always go to him for advice. I have always been able to hang out with him on boat at Lake Norman. I raced for him a little bit in 2016 and 2017. Last year I raced for Johnny (Johnny Davis owner of JD Motorsports) but I didn’t have the budget to race for the entire year. Fortunately, B.J. gave me the opportunity to come back to his organization this year. I am fortunate to have him as a boss this year because he is very laid back and cool guy to work for. Since I have raced for him before, and I have known most all of these guys for a few years, it is a great fit for me.
WOMR: Are you going to race the whole year for B.J.?
MM: Yes. This year is our best year for funding. I am ready to race the whole year for B.J. McLeod Motorsports. It is going to be a lot of traveling, a lot of fun racing, and I may have to hit my teammmate, Vinnie Miller, a time or two before the season is over! (There was a roar of laughter coming from behind me because Vinnie was standing right behind me observing this interview!) . Vinnie is my best friend, we are traveling together this season, and we are having a lot of fun together.
WOMR: Matt, how involved are you in acquiring and maintaining sponsorship so that you are able to race the whole season?
MM: I am very involved in that. My dad works for an electrical company. If you notice, on my race car I have several electric companies as sponsors. This week it is JF Electric as my sponsor. How I got these electric companies as sponsors was by bringing them to the race track. Once I got them to the race track they all have just fallen in love with racing. All this happened a few years ago when I was racing late models and these companies have stayed with me and followed me up to the Xfinity level with their support.
WOMR: Now that you are going to have a full year in the NXS with B.J. McLeod, what do you bring to the table to this race team?
MM: Hopefully, a lot of clean race cars at the end of the race! ( chuckles abound) But it is really important that we get through this West Coast swing with clean cars to take back home to Charlotte. These first five races are important meet our weekly goals and to bring back a clean car. Also to get the best finish that we can. This year will be a big learning year for me. This is my fourth or fifth race with a composite body, so I am still learning on that deal as well. I feel that I am ready for this and I am going to make B.J. happy.
WOMR: You mentioned the new composite bodies. Is there a difference racing the old bodies versus the new composite bodies?
MM: Yes there is. The composite bodies weigh a little less and have more drag designed in them. I feel like these new cars stick to the track a lot better that the old steel cars did. I enjoy racing the composite cars better than the old steel cars. But it is just going to take a little bit of time to get used to these cars.
WOMR: If the crew chief was going to put on a new super secret illegal part that is going to make the car go super fast, would you want to know about it?
MM: Probably not because I not sure what it would be like.
WOMR: When I am at the race track out at the driver intros I see all the drivers behind the stage gathered and some are talking with other drivers, what are you talking about?
MM: It just kind of depends. Sometimes we like to talk about racing. Sometimes we are bouncing ideas off of each other and talking about how our cars are handling. We talk about how we think the race is going to go, and sometimes we talk about what you want to do when we get back home after the race! Some of us are just trying to get our minds off of the race and relax. But we just talk about the whole weekend.
WOMR: So you and Vinnie Miller are teammates and tight friends away from the track. If you and he were in a tight battle for 15th place during the race, would you move him out of the way?
MM: I would not move him during the race. If I did I would have him and BJ both on my case. But if we were at the go kart track in Mooresville having fun, Vinnie get knocked out of the way. No problem!
WOMR: If I went to your teammates and asked them about you, what would they tell me about you?
MM: They would say that I am quiet but when I do say something it has some meaning to it. They would also say that I am sarcastic.
WOMR: Let’s play the word association game, ok. A.J. Foyt.
WOMR: Richard Petty
WOMR: B.J. McLeod
WOMR: Matt Mills
WOMR: If you weren’t a race car driver what would you be doing to pay the bills?
MM: I would still be racing something, maybe motocross.
WOMR: Of the NASCAR tracks that you have raced at, what is your favorite one? Why?
MM: I really like racing at Phoenix. It is kind of a flat race track and that is what I grew up racing on northern Ohio. You have be smooth, hit your marks, and keep the fenders on the race car. I just love racing at Phoenix.
WOMR: If Phoenix is your favorite track, then what is your least favorite or the track that poses the biggest problem for you?
MM: Atlanta is probably the hardest race track for me. It is hard to keep the tires on the race car because the track is so abrasive. It is just mentally exhausting to race there because you must hit your marks there every single lap. It is the hardest track to drive in my mind.
WOMR: I know that you are still a young man, but what are you most proud of?
MM: Well my racing career has been up and down a bit so the fact that I have been able to stick with it makes me proud. I have surrounded myself with good sponsors and I have great parents who have been very supportive. I hope that I can continue to stick with it through the good times and the not so good times that may be in the future
WOMR: Do you have a “go to guy” for your racing questions?
MM: It is B.J. McLeod. Whether it is a question on or off the track, I can go to him for the answers.
WOMR: What is it about BJ that makes him your “go to guy”?
MM: He is a great race car driver and car owner. Most people may not think that he is laid back and humble, but he really is. I can talk to him about anything and he will not BS around. He will tell you what he thinks, good or bad. That is good that he is a straight shooter in his advice, especially for me as a young driver.
WOMR: Is there any team orders given by McLeod to you guys, like you can race hard but don’t wreck each other?
MM: Exactly! During our weekly meeting he will tell us to do the very best that you can, but do not wreck the race cars. Especially on this West Coast swing, we need to bring the cars home in one piece and get them ready for the next weekend. He tells us to race hard, but make sure that all four fenders are on the car at the end ofd the race!
With that last question it was time for Mills to don his fire retardant racing suit, climb into his hot rod, and go out to practice at ISM Raceway.
I hope that you have gained some insight into the personality and mindset of this young race car driver. What I have learned from spending some time with this young gun is that he is a fun loving, determined young man with a passion for speed, competition, and burning desire to succeed in the world of NASCAR.
We wish Matt all the luck for the 2019 Xfinity season.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!